Ethiopia: Northern Ethiopia Access Snapshot (October 2021)


Humanitarian access in northern Ethiopia remained challenging in October as a result of intensification of hostilities in Amhara and Afar regions, forcing thousand of people to flee. The non-authorization to the movement of relief supplies, medicines, fuel or cash to Tigray promoted the suspension or reduction of most relief operations across northern Ethiopia.

In Tigray, since 18 October, a number of airstrikes has been reported targeting Mekelle town, May Tsebri, Adwa and Abi Adi, causing dozens of casualties and compromising the safety of civilian population and aid workers. The population’s access to life-saving assistance and basic social services was further curtailed by severe shortages of supplies, including commercial supplies, lack of communications and banking services. The last humanitarian relief convoy by United Nations (UN) authorized to move to Tigray - through Afar - took place on 18 October. According to the Health Cluster, most health facilities are no longer functional, while the delivery of emergency kits and the second phase of cholera vaccination campaign were suspended (OCHA Northern Ethiopia - Operational capacity dashboard). Access has negatively been affected by anti-UN and humanitarian sentiments linked to the perceived lack of humanitarian response in certain areas, as well as the reduction in foot print by some partners.

In Amhara, access to hundreds of thousands of people in need has been hampered by ongoing armed confrontations in North and South Wello, Wag Hamra, and North Gondar zones. Parties to the conflict used heavy artillery in urban areas, causing casualties. In early October, the population was displaced to Dessie and Kombolcha towns from North and South Wello. Reportedly, parties to the conflict occupied and vandalized some partners’ premises and warehouses in South Wollo. Business, communications, public transport, and banking services have been disrupted in conflict-affected areas, impacting the population’s access to market and basic social services.

In Afar, partners suspended activities in support to IDPs and local communities due to security concerns. Conflict reignited in areas that had been calm in September, i.e. Zone 4 and 5 (Fanti/ Hari Rasa), prompting the renewed displacement of thousands of people. In addition, fighting was reported in Chifra (Awsi/Zone 1) and Berahile (Kilbati/Zone 2). Reportedly, the food security situation of the population has been significantly impacted by the conflict, with large scale loss of crops, livestock, and livelihoods. Electricity, business activities, communications, and banking services were disrupted in all areas impacted by violence.

In Amhara and along the Semera-Abala-Mekelle route, partners reported incidents of arbitrary denial of movement by parties to the conflict, including detentions, harassment, physical abuse, and intimidation. On 24 October, security forces interfered with the relocation of 60 aid workers and their dependents out of Tigray. Some aid workers were detained for 48 hours while others were compelled to return to Tigray. Since 28 October, no movement of aid personnel by road in or out of Tigray has been possible. Following a security incident on 22 October, the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) suspended all relief aid flights to Mekelle. This suspension impacted the movement of aid workers and the ‘transportation of cash’, critical to sustain humanitarian operations in Tigray.

At the end of October, authorities announced the lifting of the temporary suspension of operations to the INGO Medecins sans Frontiers – Holland (MSF-H) while the suspension to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) was extended for an additional period of two months. Both organizations have large relief programmes through Ethiopia, including in Tigray, Amhara and Afar, providing emergency services on health, nutrition, shelter, non-food items and protection.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit